The first week of a new year means resolution time. Like most people, I’ve had mixed results-some resolutions stick, some don’t, some take a few attempts. The one I’ve kept the longest was the decision to go vegetarian, which I made eighteen years ago when I was in eighth grade. I did this and never strayed because it was based on a core belief I’d developed to cause as little harm and pain to others as possible. Over the years, I’ve found that the resolutions that stick are the ones like that where I remind myself of my values and act in a way that reflects them.
This year, the Village of Forest Park has inspired me. The longer I live here, the more impressed I am by the way we truly act like a community. The people that live here are genuinely interested in finding ways to make our town a better place, like Kim Zandstra, who worked so hard to bring a Farmer’s Market back to Forest Park in 2010. And there’s Jessica Rinks and Gina Garrison, founders of the community garden, which contributes fresh produce to the Forest Park Food Pantry. My fellow cat-loving neighbors Terri, Eva, Maryanne, Michelle, and Mark are helping me make sure our feral furry friends stay warm this winter. And of course there was that amazing post-flood Facebook group of Forest Park neighbors offering each other help and support after disaster struck this summer.
The kindness of friends, neighbors, and strangers is what kept me afloat during a 2010 filled with heartache, stress and flooding. So in 2011, my resolution is to follow a piece of advice given in one of my favorite cheesy childhood movies, Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “Be excellent to each other.” In the movie, Bill and Ted saw that following this simple rule lead to a utopian future society where peace and wailing guitars reigned. That’s my kind of happily ever after. While I can’t stop wars and fix the economy, I’ve decided to try to do my part.
As someone who works in the service industry, I’ve often been the victim of other people’s bad days. Their boss or spouse was rude to them so they yell at me because they don’t think I’m getting their drink fast enough. It stresses me out, and sours my whole night. I go home and snap at my husband. It’s a cycle of cruelty. Not excellent at all.
However, when you push past the ugliness and act kindly, good things happen. Just the other day, I was shopping. I was in a rush, the stores were crowded, traffic was a mess-things were generally annoying. But I decided to make small talk with the cashier anyway-ask her if she had a good holiday-and commiserate that it being so busy must be stressful for her. She appreciated the small gesture and asked if I’d seen the ten dollar coupon in the paper. I hadn’t, so she found an extra and gave it to me. I was nice. She was nice back. It was that simple.
Think about how good you feel when a stranger smiles or says, “Hi,” on the street, when someone compliments you out of the blue or makes friendly conversation. Try to do this for others at least once a day. Do it instead of lashing out when you’re in a bad mood. It’s an easy resolution and an easy way to make the world a little kinder and gentler. Happy 2011, Forest Park. Keep inspiring me. Keep being excellent to each other.
Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.